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First UNCTAD hi-tech policy for developing world unveiled in Colombo

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 9 March 2018 00:00


  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s first global policy on trade digitalisation launched in Colombo
  • ‘Our apparel earnings historic but sector lacks technology’ - Bathiudeen
  • ‘Not a series of negotiations with countries, only support sessions’ - UNCTAD’s Rashmi
  • Partnering with UNCTAD and Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka creates trade history Trade reps from 
  • South Asia, ASEAN & Europe at session 

Sri Lanka’s Department of Commerce has created history by jointly launching the first-ever Policymakers’ Session on the Digitalisation of Trade and Industries series of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for its member countries, yesterday in Colombo.

“Our apparel, a major manufacturing export, is world-class and this sector has reported the largest export earnings in history last year of $ 4.8 billion, a 3% increase from 2016. This sector needs digitalisation support,” said Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen. 

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the UNCTAD-backed first Senior Policymakers’ Workshop on Digital Trade and Industrialisation held yesterday at Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo. Joining the launch of the high level two-day sessions were Director General of Commerce Sonali Wijeratne, UNCTAD Senior Researcher Dr. Rashmi Banga, the Centre for WTO Studies’ Dr. Abhijit Das and top policymakers and commerce secretaries from South Asia, ASEAN countries and Europe. 

“Sri Lanka faces a number of challenges with digitalisation. These include slower growth of digital skills and the need to successfully digitalise the export sector including apparel. Our understanding is that industrialisation and manufacturing are drivers of growth in Sri Lanka’s international trade,” said Minister Bathiudeen. 

“This UNCTAD initiative acknowledges E-Commerce as a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide and generate digital solutions for Developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The multilateral trading system has recognised that digitalisation has its positive impact on trade and has included it in their agendas. Along with nine other countries Sri Lanka has signed up as a member of the group on ‘Friends of E-Commerce for Development’. UNCTAD believes that the value of global e-commerce is huge - which was $ 25 trillion in 2015 and continuing to grow. UNCTAD also says that e-commerce has great impacts on the world economy. What is important here is that Sri Lanka should not miss this global e-commerce opportunity. In this background today’s session holds special significance for Asian developing countries including Sri Lanka. I praise the Department of Commerce for joining UNCTAD in this global initiative.”

“UNCTAD’s first ever policy session on Digitalisation of Trade and Industrial Policy is unveiled in Colombo today,” said UNCTAD Senior Researcher Dr. Rashmi Banga, adding, “this is a first in a series of such session aiming to build country capacities. The second session in this ongoing series will be held in South Africa. This is not a series of negotiations with any country but rather about building policy capacity of the countries, specially forging South-South cooperation. At present UNCTAD has already been requested by several countries to come and provide support in formulating their digitalisation of trade and industrialisation policies. A completed Digitalisation of Trade and Industrial Policy helps a country especially when that country enters any trade agreements.” 

Sri Lanka Director General of Commerce Sonali Wijeratne said that this was an important event for the Department of Commerce in its partnership with UNCTAD. 

The two-day sessions in Colombo, which will conclude today, will include working sessions on E-Commerce data inclusion, E-Commerce in a WTO framework, digital infrastructure development in South Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and digitalisation of South, WTO’s Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and Digitalisation, regional digital cooperation in South and a country perspectives on digital trade and the WTO.


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